Biking Holland (Pt. 2)

It’s the most densely populated country in Europe and each household owns about four bikes. So it got crowded at times, especially in town squares and at intersections. But everyone was so polite, giving way to each other. I guess you have to be when you’re packed closely together. We who live in the urban U.S. understand that!

In our nearly-100-mile biking tour of northern Holland, we also experienced stretches of alone-ness in the sand dunes bordering the North Sea. (Maybe only tourists venture into the dunes? 😉 ) But since we biked in a group of 14 or so, we were never really alone. That’s the point of a group biking tour. We stick together and — as we say in the Navy — leave no shipmate behind. This means a nice-and-easy pace. I admit I had the urge to “go for it” more than once but reminded myself that I can do that when I’m home. Besides, at almost age 65, what do I have to prove? Oh, right. That I still “have it.” Ah, well…not like I used to. The body reflects the years in ways I dislike but can’t ignore. So the urge to “push it” didn’t last very long! Besides, the wind often pushed back. Sometimes, moving forward at all is the best you can do. And it’s enough.

The good thing about a leisurely pace is that you have time to look around. And there was much to see and admire in this small but powerful country with deep history. See photos and captions below. (To learn more about the Boat Bike Tour that we chose, click here. We chose the sailing vessel but there are other options.)

Disclaimer: I normally use my own photos in this blog, but not all photos in this post are mine.

Bikes are so essential in this country, they erect statues in their honor! (That’s me in pink.)
Intersections were sometimes dicey to navigate, especially when encountering a raised bridge.
On our last biking day, I did “sweep” — taking the back end to ensure we stayed together — but sped ahead of the group to take this picture with our guide Tom in front. Holland is mostly flat like this, but not all of it! (See “Biking Holland, Pt. 1.”)
The blue boat represents us, on board the sailing vessel below, as shown in the boat-tracking app Nebo. The numbers in circles represent other boats using this app–or at least that’s how it worked the last time I used it. (While doing The Great Loop.) It was such fun to “learn Europe” in this new way, at least a little!
Our home for seven nights was the Mare fan Fryslan, 177 feet long and about 25 feet wide. Read more about the boat here. One attraction of this particular tour was the opportunity to sail as well as bike. (See “Sailing Holland” post.)

Our Dutch guide Tom wore a bright yellow vest and led our biking column.
The town of Alkmaar is known for its canals. (Most Dutch towns have canals, but these are truly beautiful.) It’s also known for its historic cheese market…
…reenacted here in the town square. The round orange things are cheeses. The plants are tulips. The physical re-enacement features four men carrying cheeses to market on a swinging cart, the way they did “in the old days.” We didn’t stick around to watch. (I did buy a cheese, smaller than these here. It’s so delicious, I wish I had bought more.)
Alkmaar had cute shops, too. I don’t care for shopping, but posing in front of a cute shop is rather fun!
Who says age needs to slow you down? OK, maybe a little. My traveling pals Andrea (left), June (front), and Susan (middle) alongside me (in yellow) plus Kim from Georgia (back) and Kee from Singapore (right). We are all above 60, I believe. One celebrated her 68th birthday on board, and one is 70.
The sand dunes along the North Sea feature many biking paths. Holland has about 22,000 miles of cycling paths. (Biking here is more for transportation than sport.)
When you tour by bike, you get close-ups of the animals you pass by. I think these are Dutch Landrace, a breed of domestic goat that has been known in the Netherlands since the 1600s.
This pictures shows the flatness you expect of Holland. But it’s not all like this! (See previous post.)
Henk (Dutch version of Hank) is a volunteer at Hortus Bulborum, a tulip farm that we visited on our last day, which cultivates more than 2,650 varieties of tulips. Hank is standing in front of Tulipa Duc van Tol, which dates back to 1595 and laid the foundation for commercial bulb growing. Holland is considered “home base” for tulips now, but they actually originated in Central Asia and were exported to Holland and elsewhere thousands of years ago. Global trade is nothing new!
Tulips get all the glory but daffodils deserve our gratitude also…especially with such a great backdrop and sky at Hortus Bulborum. A few days before, we had visited Keukenhof, called “the most beautiful Spring garden in the world,” which plants 7 million bulbs and gets 1.5 million visitors in 2 months. It was so gorgeous, but crowded. I prefer a quieter and more modest place like this to help me absorb the beauty…
Our last night in Holland, our boat was berthed in Zaanse Schans, near this picturesque re-creation of an historic Dutch village.
As we approached our boat’s berth, we passed restored windmills. Holland has many modern windmills too, but like so many other countries, is realizing the value of the original…mainly for attracting tourists. (And their dollars.)
I love to explore after sunset (no crowds!) and the windmills look even better against the late-evening sky. I’m so grateful for memories like this, as I write from my townhouse near Washington D.C. When I retired at 57, I resolved to visit, annually, at least one country that I’ve never seen before to learn more about our amazing world. Thank you, Holland, for a great addition to that goal!
A view through the boat’s porthole my last morning on board.
Leaving you with one final look at Holland’s most famous export, tulips….

5 thoughts on “Biking Holland (Pt. 2)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s